As noted on the Degree Requirements page, GSAS degree requirements consist of the academic requirements enumerated by the department or program, and the requirement of residence at the University, which students fulfill by completing a stated number of Residence Units. See below for information regarding certain Master’s programs that are exceptions to this residence requirement: American Studies, Human Rights Studies, Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Modern European Studies, and South Asian Studies.
During their first semester at GSAS, new students have the option to submit evidence of graduate coursework completed elsewhere, including other schools at Columbia, for partial fulfillment of both the academic and residence requirements. At GSAS, Transfer Credit denotes coursework completed elsewhere that a student may submit in partial fulfillment of the academic requirements for his or her degree. Advanced Standing refers to the awarding of full or fractional Residence Units in partial fulfillment of the requirement for residence at the University.
One Residence Unit (partial Advanced Standing) or two Residence Units (full Advanced Standing) may be granted to students in Ph.D. programs; the maximum is two Residence Units. Students in free-standing M.A. programs may receive no more than one Residence Unit of Advanced Standing.
Transfer Credit is awarded up to a maximum of 15 credits. Please note that Advanced Standing and Transfer Credit are adjudicated separately, and that awarding of one may not involve the awarding of the other.
Transfer Credit that is accepted toward the degree may allow a student to be exempt from a particular academic requirement, but it does not reduce the number of Residence Units that a student must complete to earn the degree. For example, in a program that requires students to complete courses in several subfields, Transfer Credit may allow a student to be exempt from taking a course in one of those subfields. Because one Residence Unit is equivalent to one semester of full-time registration, Advanced Standing reduces the student’s time to degree by one or two Residence Units and therefore one or two semesters. Full or partial Advanced Standing is granted for several courses taken elsewhere that advance the student generally toward the Columbia degree.
During the first semester in which they register, students who wish to request Advanced Standing and/or Transfer Credit should submit the Application for Advanced Standing and Transfer Credit form (PDF) as well as any relevant materials to their department’s DGS or program coordinator. The department determines whether to grant Transfer Credit and/or Advanced Standing and forwards its recommendation to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Departments reserve the right to establish degree requirements for all students in their programs. Therefore, Advanced Standing and Transfer Credit for courses taken elsewhere are decided on a case-by-case basis.
Graduate students who hold Columbia undergraduate degrees may be granted up to one Residence Unit of Advanced Standing and/or up to 15 points of Transfer Credit for courses taken in excess of the requirements for the Columbia bachelor's degree. The student must submit to the GSAS Office of Admissions a letter from the Dean of his or her undergraduate division stating that these courses are graduate courses (at the 4000 level and above) and that they have not been used to fulfill any requirement for the bachelor's degree.
Students should be aware of the following policies:
- Advanced Standing and Transfer Credit are granted solely by the faculty and the Dean of the Graduate School.
- Under no circumstances will undergraduate courses (for Columbia courses, those at the 3000 level and below) be accepted as Transfer Credit toward a master's or doctoral degree.
- Once granted, Advanced Standing and Transfer Credit cannot be revoked.
Policies for awarding Transfer Credit and Advanced Standing differ depending on the type of degree program (doctoral or Master's). Please see the appropriate section below.
After an academic review of Ph.D. students who have submitted the Application for Advanced Standing and Transfer Credit, the department or program determines whether or not to grant Advanced Standing, either in full (two Residence Units) or in part (up to one Residence Unit), and/or Transfer Credit toward academic requirements.
Advanced Standing and Transfer Credit will not be granted except under the following conditions:
- If a graduate student transfers to Columbia as an advisee of a faculty member hired from another institution
- Upon request of both the student and the Director of Graduate Studies of a Columbia doctoral program.
- For students formerly in Columbia free-standing M.A. programs whose department faculty confirm their previous coursework counts toward the Columbia doctoral degree without replacement coursework
Note: The total number of semesters of financial aid is reduced by the number of granted Residence Units (e.g., if full Advanced Standing of two Residence Units is granted, a student will receive four rather than five years of funding). Since the granting of Advanced Standing reduces the number of years of funding, there are very few circumstances in which a student should apply to receive Advanced Standing. If the student wishes to apply previous work toward the current Columbia degree, Transfer Credit should be used instead of Advanced Standing.
Students with a Master's Degree:
Ph.D. students who, upon entrance to the Graduate School, have completed the requirements either a) for an appropriate M.A. degree, conferred in another division of Columbia or by another regionally accredited institution (or the international equivalent), or b) (occasionally) for an appropriate professional degree taken at Columbia or elsewhere may be eligible to receive full Advanced Standing (two Residence Units).
To receive full Advanced Standing, the previous degree must be the academic equivalent of the Columbia M.A. and must be judged to be such that it advances the student by one year toward the M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees. Usually a department awards full Advanced Standing when a student’s work (1) has contributed directly and substantially to the fulfillment of the requirements for the M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees and (2) meets departmental standards.
Students who have been granted full Advanced Standing (two Residence Units) are not eligible to receive an M.A. from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Departments reserve the right to establish degree requirements for all students in their programs. Therefore, such students are not necessarily exempt from all requirements demanded of M.A. candidates, although they are not eligible to receive the M.A. degree from GSAS.
Students who hold a Master’s degree but do not receive full Advanced Standing may receive up to one Residence Unit of Advanced Standing and up to 15 points of Transfer Credit.
Students Without a Master's Degree:
Ph.D. students who have taken graduate-level courses but have not completed an appropriate M.A. degree program or the equivalent (or an appropriate professional degree) at Columbia or elsewhere may receive up to one Residence Unit of Advanced Standing and up to 15 points of Transfer Credit.
All previous coursework must be from graduate courses (if at Columbia, that means courses at the 4000 level and above).
No Transfer Credit or Advanced Standing is granted toward the Master of Arts degree at Columbia for courses taken outside Columbia University.
Students registered in M.A. programs* may request up to 15 points of Transfer Credit and up to one Residence Unit of Advanced Standing toward fulfillment of the requirements for an M.A. degree. All coursework offered toward Advanced Standing or Transfer Credit must be from courses at the 4000 level and above that were completed at Columbia and have not been applied toward another degree that was previously awarded. The student's department or program determines the number of points of Transfer Credit and the amount of Advanced Standing that the student will receive.
* Requirements for the Master’s programs in American Studies, Human Rights Studies, Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, Modern European Studies, and South Asian Studies do not involve Residence Units; please see below for Transfer Credit policies for these programs.
Master’s Students in American Studies, Human Rights Studies, Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, Modern European Studies, and South Asian Studies
Note: The policies in this section supersede the preceding policies listed above.
In all six programs, a maximum of 12 points of Transfer Credit may be awarded for courses at the 4000 level and above that were completed at Columbia and have not been applied toward another degree that was previously awarded. The student's department or program determines the number of points of Transfer Credit and the amount of Advanced Standing that the student will receive.
Students in the Master’s program in Human Rights are not granted Transfer Credit for courses taken outside the University. Students in American Studies, Human Rights Studies, Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, Modern European Studies, and South Asian Studies are allowed up to six points of Transfer Credit for courses taken outside the University. The courses transferred must be graduate-level courses, have a specific relationship to the program chosen, and have been completed prior to the student’s first semester in the Master’s program. They may not have been used to fulfill requirements for another degree that was previously awarded. Once students are admitted, they must complete all their remaining coursework at Columbia.